How Does Joint Disease Affect My Horse’s Career?
Because osteoarthritis widely varies in how quickly it progresses and the level of pain it produces, a positive diagnosis may mark a different future, depending on the horse. In the case of early-onset osteoarthritis that is progressing slowly, a horse may easily continue his career supported by appropriate joint management. In more acute cases, a horse may need to reduce his workload or compete at a lower level. For older horses, transitioning into retirement may be the best solution. Much of it depends on what the horse’s job is and his level of use.
“Let them tell you what they can do. If they are happy working and are comfortable and sound with some maintenance, keep them working. If you can’t keep them comfortable and sound, it may be time to think about a different career or lesser workload,” says Patrick Loftin, DVM, MS, a surgeon at Tryon Equine Hospital.
“Don’t despair. It’s not necessarily the end of your horse’s career. There are many horses out there doing high-level jumping, dressage and even racing with ugly X-rays. Work with your veterinarian to come up with a plan for your horse to moderate symptoms and keep him comfortable as well as an exercise program. Try to reduce inflammation and slow the progress of the symptoms and progression of clinical signs and lameness.”
If you plan on competing in rated shows while your horse is on medication for joint pain, be sure to check the United States Equestrian Federation rules to ensure the drugs your horse is taking are allowed. You can email the USEF Drug Hotline firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-633-2472.
An osteoarthritis diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean your horse’s show career is over— proper management can help keep him ready for competition.